Jason Clarke Antiques

Victorian Salesmans Sample of a Patent Bucket Fire Extinguisher by Messer & Thorpe London


For sale, a Late Victorian salesman’s sample, or Patent model for the Messer & Thorpe bucket fire extinguisher.

Patented in 1892, this simple yet effective design was produced by the engineering firm of Messer & Thorpe, effectively solving the issue of evaporation of stored water but also allowing for numerous buckets to be stored on top of one another to increase firefighting effectiveness.

Contemporary adverts for the product provides further explanation:

“Everyone knows the difficulty of keeping fire buckets full of water. When left in the buckets it gradually evaporates. The buckets should, of course, be examined and refilled periodically, but in practice men get careless, and not infrequently when required the buckets are found either empty or only half full. The plan of putting oil on the surface of the water to check evaporation is not to be recommended, whilst covering the buckets with paper is troublesome. With a view to overcoming these difficulties, Messer & Thorpe, of 8 Quality court, Chancery Lane, have designed and patented the arrangement which we illustrate on this page. As will be seen, the whole of the buckets rest in a tank which holds sufficient to fill them all. This tank is covered with a heavy lid, the Joint being made of felt which effectually filters any air that runs through it; the water cannot, therefore, become dirty, whilst its evaporation is checked. The handles of the buckets have projecting ends which slide between two guides, a lug being provided at each end of the handle which fits into recesses in the guides, and prevents a bucket being drawn out by the suction of the bucket above it. Taking hold of the handle to lift a bucket turns the lugs clear of the recesses into which they fit, and the bucket can then be raised. These buckets are made in two sizes, vis., the ordinary fire size, and also to weigh ten pounds when full, for the use of female servants”

This salesman’s sample is obviously different due to the hinged side panel which would allow the prospective customer to see the inside of the tank and have the design and movement of the bucket lugs demonstrated to them. An extraordinarily rare Victorian salesman’s sample model dating to the final years of Victoria’s reign retaining all of its original ten buckets.

Records of the company of Messer & Thorpe are somewhat sparse although they are considered to have been established in the early 1880’s. Their original adverts state them as makers of steam engines and general millwork & machinery but most of the available information relates to their subsequent fire product which must have been received with much enthusiasm. The company exhibited their new product at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and also (somewhat ironically) provided examples for a fire extinguishing exhibition which took place at The Crystal Palace in London.

Circa 1895   

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